Mendo Island Journal — Timely. Useful. Sometimes Cranky.

Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

A Day in the Life of a Transitioner…

In Mendo Island Transition on February 9, 2012 at 5:00 am

From CHARLOTTE DU CANN
Transition Norwich

It was cold when I woke up last Sunday. The jackdaws were gathering in the fields and there was a hard frost on the ground. Ah, good I said to myself. Then I sighed, put on two large jumpers and went downstairs to put the kettle on for coffee and a hot water bottle. Switched on the computer and got down to work. It was 7am.

How has Transition changed my life? Utterly, completely, forever. This is not how I would have started a Sunday morning several years ago. I would not, for example, have known why the birds were feeding in the arable fields, I would not have rejoiced in and lamented the frost, thinking simultaneously of the vegetables and the fruit trees that need a winter to flourish and the shivering people in the Occupy encampments. I would not have put on two recycled jumpers or got down to write a blog at 7am. The central heating would have automatically warmed up the house, and I would be up around nine, thinking about my private world, lying in a hot bath.

I could go through each moment of that Sunday and every detail would form part of a Transition narrative: from my breakfast millet (Sustainable Bungay buying group) and apples (our Produce Swap day) to our neighbour’s car that we now share. But most of all it would show how that narrative is shaped by the times I go up to Norwich and my relationships with the people there.

Here I am at 11.30am talking to Kit at Occupy Norwich about Occupied Times in London. I’ve put some stuff in the kitchen, I tell him More…

A deep, complex garden book that is fun to read…

In Books on February 8, 2012 at 5:15 am

From SHARON ASTYK
casaubonsbook

There are a lot of gardening books out there, and whenever anyone asks me for my favorite ones, I find myself struggling to make a list. There are three rules about garden books to remember.

1. All garden books are local to one degree or another, unless they are very general. That is, all garden books are fundamentally about the experience of gardeners in particular places and in particular circumstances. Beyond basic books, the best garden books are by authors who remember this and try and connect what they have done with others, while also acknowledging the limits of their experience. Bad garden books become prescriptive “no one should use mulch” or “everyone should use mulch” or whatever because their experience with mulch is deemed to be universal.

2. There is a difficult middle-space gap in garden writing between books that are written for the absolute beginner (many) and speak in such general terms that after you’ve mastered the basics, you don’t really need to read more of them, and the technical research papers that often present new research or ideas. By this I mean that the experienced, engaged gardener who doesn’t need to read another basic explanation of how soil fertility works or how to start seeds leaves them with little truly new, exciting and creative to read. The papers can be useful and inspiring, but they are rarely readable or entertaining, the general books may be fond and familiar material, but one goes back to them as reference, and there are only a few dozens of good books written for the expert gardener who wants to learn something new. More…

Transition: Seeing Wendell Berry’s Wilderness Again…

In Mendo Island Transition on February 8, 2012 at 5:00 am

From CHRIS CHANEY
Transition Voice

In the early ’90s I made the conscious decision to drop out of college. I distinctly remember the day I withdrew from classes and made the call to my parents. I remember thinking: “Now I’m a statistic.” College dropout.

I watched as the debt grew and my confidence in finding a suitable career faded. I made the decision to drop out based on the reality that I could avoid debt and simply work. I resolved to be satisfied with less. I broke my social contract outright.

Believe it or not, I had a plan.

No, I didn’t start up a software business. I didn’t pursue any entrepreneurial track to riches. My plan was simply to get any job I could and spend my free time exploring the Red River Gorge which is located near where I grew up in Eastern Kentucky. My plan had no long term component.

I don’t know when I first discovered Wendell Berry’s The Unforeseen Wilderness, but it was about this same time in my life. I wanted to read it, but as a poor college dropout with little cash to spend on books it remained out of my hands for a time.

One day I was out with a friend and saw it on a bargain table. I had no cash, but the friend, seeing my eagerness to read it, bought it for me. It was a fortunate encounter because the book changed the way I looked at the world, my life, and the landscape of my soul. More…

Gene Logsdon: Cold Weather Conundrum…

In Gene Logsdon Blog - The Contrary Farmer on February 8, 2012 at 4:45 am

From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

I say that a love of nature is at the root of my love for farming, but in fact I hate cold weather, an integral part of nature in the north. How can I explain the contradiction? I’ll give you my line of reasoning as long as you don’t hold me to it too strictly. I argue that cold weather is the biggest threat to human existence on earth. That’s why I hate it. We seldom think about it but humans, unlike other animals, can only survive in northern climates with some kind of artificial heat, which means burning up the earth’s supply of stored sunlight as fuel. We are not polar bears. We live through northern winters by plundering the rest of nature.

What made me think of this again is that, much to my surprise, fur prices are on the rise. Muskrat pelts are selling for $8 and up at auctions, coyotes at $60 and up, red foxes from $25 to $50, and raccoons from $13 to $19 each. China and other “newly rich” countries are driving up the prices because the people there not only think fur coats are fashionable but because animal fur is a very good insulation against cold weather. Muskrat belly fur for example, makes an excellent lining for cold weather boots because it is nearly impermeable to moisture.

Obviously, as humans migrated from their natural environment of warm weather, they not only had to discover fire but gird themselves in animal skins until they figured out how to make insulated underwear out of polyester. Before that there must have been eons of migration from warmer climes to colder and back again as winter approached, a practice still honored by migrating birds and quite a few corn-beans-and Florida farmers. With furs and fire, humans slowly learned how to stay in the north through winter. This led to the whole silly culture of clothes and heaven only knows how much that has cost the earth. Even with clothes, humans had to have shelter to survive bitter cold. They used caves or built structures out of wood or stone or ice, leading to the ultra-extravagant housing industry of today.  All of this, in the beginning, just to stay warm.

As fuel supplies seem to diminish now and dreams of grandeur soar, this kind of un-sustainability continues. We cover entire sports arenas from the weather; we set up acres of solar panels to produce electricity. More and more, greenhouse tunnels and hoop houses become part of agriculture. More…

Occupy Monsanto: The seed is the foundation of civilization and of democracy…

In Around the web, Seeds on February 7, 2012 at 5:34 am

From ANNA LEKAS MILLER
Alternet

Activists, Farmers Fight the Corporation They Fear Will Take Over All America‘s Crops

Monsanto, if you will, is the 1 percent of Big Agriculture–the scourge of small farmers everywhere. But now those farmers are fighting back, backed by activists from Occupy Wall Street.

First, some history. In 1982, Monsanto scientists were the first to genetically modify a plant cell. Three years later, the US Patent Office ruled that plants were a patentable subject matter.

By 1985, Monsanto had already become a corporate giant by creating RoundUp, the most popular herbicide in the world. Now that it had the legal protection of seed patents in addition to the biotechnology to genetically manipulate its seeds, Monsanto scientists engineered a specific brand of Monsanto seeds that were RoundUp-resistant—unlike organic, natural seeds, these seeds are sterile and have to be re-planted each year, ensuring that customers return year after year to replenish their supply.

In order to achieve a monopoly over the market, and keep farmers from saving their own seed as they have done for centuries, Monsanto begin to purchase as many seeds as possible—spending $8 billion and acquiring over 20 seed companies over the past decade alone. Today, Monsanto controls 93 percent of soybean crops, 86 percent of corn crops, 93 percent of cotton crops, and 93 percent of canola seed crops in the United States alone.

Monsanto is far from finished. To continue its corporate monopoly and push more seeds off the market, Monsanto specifically targets organic farmers, often testing their crops without permission. If the crops are resistant to RoundUp, Monsanto’s signature pesticide, Monsanto sues the farmer for patent infringement.

In many instances, pollen from a neighboring farm growing Monsanto’s genetically modified crops can migrate to an organic farm, contaminating its crops. In addition to losing these crops and losing important organic buyers due to this genetic trespass, many organic farmers face undeserved, crippling lawsuits from Monsanto that force them into debt, bankruptcy More…

When did vegetarianism become passé?…

In Around the web on February 7, 2012 at 5:15 am

From LISA HYMAS
Grist

It used to be that when I told a fellow progressive I’m a vegetarian, I would get one of three reactions: (1) an enthusiastic “me too!,” (2) a slightly guilty admission of falling off the veg wagon, or (3) a voracious defense of the glories of steak.

These days, there’s another increasingly common reaction: People look at me with a mix of pity and confusion, like I’m some holdover from the ’90s wearing a baby-doll dress with chunky shoes and babbling on about No Doubt. I can see what they’re thinking: “You’re still a vegetarian?”

At some point over the past few years, vegetarianism went wholly out of style.

Now sustainable meat is all the rage. “Rock star” butchers proffer grass-fed beef, artisanal sausage, and heritage-breed chickens whose provenance can be traced back to conception on an idyllic rolling hillside. “Meat hipsters” eat it all up. The hard-core meaties flock to trendy butchery classes. Bacon has become a fetish even for eco-foodies, applied liberally to everything from salad to dessert, including “green” chocolate bars and “sustainable” ice cream.

All of which has led some vegetarians to give up their plant-based ways. But food fads aside, vegetarianism still has its place and deserves its due respect.

Let me state, for the record, that I wholeheartedly support the shift from factory farming to more sustainable meat production. Treating animals humanely, letting them eat what they’re naturally inclined to eat, raising them without antibiotics and hormones, incorporating them into holistic farmsJoel Salatin-style, and, once they’re slaughtered, eating every last bit of them, nose to tail — that’s all good stuff.

But let’s get real. Only a teeny-tiny fraction of meat in the U.S. is actually produced in any way that could conceivably be described as “sustainable” — less than 1 percent, according to the group Farm Forward — and only a teeny-tiny fraction of that is raised in the super-duper-über-conscientious Salatin style. Most of the meat raised even by those trying to do it right comes with serious environmental impacts, from high water consumption to large land footprints to excessive methane emissions.

So it really gets my goat (ahem) More…

Transition: Building community resilience to cope with collapse…

In Mendo Island Transition on February 7, 2012 at 5:00 am

From DAVE POLLARD
How To Save The World

In my previous article, I recapped and built upon Nicole Foss’ (Stoneleigh of The Automatic Earth blog) presentation in Vancouver last week. The first part of her presentation, I noted, was about the current intractable economic (and specifically debt) problems we face at all levels (governments, corporations, individuals), and how neither of the most-supported top-down alternatives (austerity or stimulus) can hope to improve the situation or avoid total economic collapse.

The second part of Nicole’s presentation focused on what we can do, at the local community level, to prepare for and build resilience to cope with this collapse. There are a number of things, she said, we can do personally:

  • Get out of debt, so that our property cannot be foreclosed upon or repossessed when the situation worsens and we are unable to repay these debts.
  • Keep as much cash on hand (and not in the bank) as reasonably possible (enough to last several months).
  • Acquire useful, non-perishable hard assets (when the economy fails, so will trade, making many hard goods hard to obtain and expensive).
  • Do not depend on governments to do anything useful.
  • Be wary of banks (they may simply close when ‘runs’ begin, preventing you from accessing your money).
  • Be wary of insurance companies and plans (they will not be able to pay out when their investments collapse).
  • Find the right place to live and move there (in or near small towns near healthy agricultural areas; avoid suburbs).
  • Learn practical essential skills, both technical and non-technical (e.g. mediation, facilitation).

There was considerable discussion near the end of the presentation More…

Harris Quarry Project: ‘Something wicked this way comes’…

In !ACTION CENTER!, Around Mendo Island on February 6, 2012 at 4:49 am

From JACK MAGNE
LTE Willets News
Thanks to Janie Sheppard

Something wicked this way comes is, of course, the famous line from the Shakespearean play Macbeth, which forewarns of an impending ominous, dangerous and traitorous entity.

Fast-forward from the 17th century to a real threat we now potentially face in Mendocino County, which is perhaps no less insidious or alarming; with modern day wide-reaching consequence for the entire county.

The proposed Harris Quarry Expansion Project is the benign-sounding name of a determined push to install a 300-ton per hour asphalt manufacturing plant neighboring the LaVida Charter School, Christ’s Church of the Golden Rule and Golden Rule senior residential park, which are proximate to the famous Seabiscuit Ranch, former home of legendary racehorse.

The Bountiful Gardens research garden and cherry orchard also are nearby.

The proposal also seeks to ambitiously involve the entire county through zoning changes specifically allowing heavy industrial/manufacturing uses on land designated in the general plan as “RL-Range Lands,” which includes 90 percent of the private property in Mendocino County.

Everyone’s “back yard” in Mendocino County could potentially be vulnerable if the designers and proponents of this plan get their way.

There is legitimate concern the so-called Mineral Processing Combining District Overlay feature of this proposal is an add-on, benefiting special interests. Sooner or later this (ear-mark) may affect unsuspecting citizens countywide, in a very up close and personal way.

Many are concerned this movement which is portrayed ostensibly as a need for a single asphalt plant, is actually a much farther-reaching agenda “opening the door” to manufacturing related development of not only more asphalt plants around the county; but also possibly for the development of oil refineries (to accommodate off-shore drilling), natural gas, geothermal and concrete manufacturing plants, along with a whole host of other activities which could bring adverse More…

Why Newt is afraid of the gutsy organizer Saul Alinsky…

In Around the web on February 6, 2012 at 4:47 am

From BILL MOYERS
Moyers & Co

[See also Excerpts from Reveille For Radicals and Right Wing Understands Saul Alinsky — Why Doesn’t the Left? -DS]

BILL MOYERS: Time, now, for a word about a good American being demonized, despite being long dead. Saul Alinsky is not around to defend himself, but that hasn’t kept Newt Gingrich from using his name to whip up the froth and frenzy of followers whose ignorance of the man is no deterrence to their eagerness, at Gingrich’s behest, to tar and feather him posthumously.

Here’s how you slander someone who can’t answer from the grave:

NEWT GINGRICH: If you believe as we do in the Declaration of Independence and you think that’s a better source than Saul Alinsky, welcome to the team […] The president believes in a kind of Saul Alinsky radicalism which would lead to a secular European socialist model […] If you have a Reagan conservative versus a Saul Alinsky radical, it’s a pretty easy debate.

BILL MOYERS: So clever, so insidious. The same tactic Newt Gingrich invoked with those radioactive words he used in the GOPAC memos to demonize his opponents. The crowd knows nothing about the target except that they are supposed to hate him.

And why not? There’s the strange foreign name. Obviously an alien. One of them. And a socialist at that. What’s a socialist? Don’t know. But Obama’s one, isn’t he? Barack-Hussein-Obama-slash-Saul-Alinsky. Bingo! Two peas in a pod — a sinister, subversive pod at that.

Just who was Alinsky? Born in the ghetto of Chicago’s South Side, he saw the worst of poverty and felt the ethnic prejudices that fester, then blast into violence when people are crowded into tenements and have too little to eat. He came to believe that working people, poor people, people put down and stepped upon, had to organize if they were going to clean up the slums, fight the corruption that exploited them, and get a hand-hold on the first rung of the ladder.

He became a protégé of the labor leader John L. Lewis and took the principles of organizing onto the streets, first in his home town, then across the country. He was one gutsy guy.

SAUL ALINSKY: The first rule of change is controversy. You can’t get away from it More…

Will Parrish: New Real Estate Predators…

In Around Mendo Island, Will Parrish on February 6, 2012 at 4:45 am

From WILL PARRISH and DARWIN BOND-GRAHAM
Ukiah
TheAVA

“During depressions, assets return to their rightful owners.” — Andrew Mellon, banker, US Treasury Secretary, and intellectual father of “trickle down” tax cut ideology.

“Buy on the fringe and wait. Buy land near a growing city! Buy real estate when other people want to sell. Hold what you buy!” — John Jacob Astor, real estate speculator-cum-fur trader and global opium trafficker.

Throughout much of the North Bay and North Coast, real estate values closely correlate with the value of wine. In recent decades, the wine industry’s relentless development of “raw land” — as industrial agriculturists refer to forests, prairies, savannahs, meadows, deserts, or any other landbase not yet totally subsumed by the industrial economy — into vineyards has markedly driven up regional property prices. The industry has further impacted real estate values via its integration with the real estate economy as a whole. More than any other artifact or image, it is the vineyard and wine glass that have come to epitomize the “Good Life” of Northern California for a global market of real estate investors, vacation-takers, and home buyers. The political and business establishment tout wine’s economic impact in triumphalist terms, virtually never exploring the dark sides of gentrification and growing inequality.

With the 2007-8 collapse of the real estate market, and the attendant decline of pricey “premium” wine brands, new forms of predatory real estate capital have emerged to prey on the “distressed assets” that now pervade the suburbs, exurbs, and countryside. “Distressed” is a financial sector euphemism for assets that have lost significant value due to the fact that the middle class has been gutted by foreclosures, high unemployment, loss of savings and other factors. Most often, of course, those who are truly distressed by this state of affairs are families or individuals who can no longer afford to pay bills, save, or even survive, let alone purchase the growing inventory of foreclosed homes that have glutted the market.

To understand how this development ties into the fate of this area’s wine industry, it helps to recount the rise and recent fall of one of the wine industry’s largest speculative entities of the last decade, Premier Pacific Vineyards (PPV). More…

OWS: 5.6 Million Americans have switched their Banks in the last 90 days…

In Around the web on February 4, 2012 at 6:51 am

From PAT GAROFALO
Think Progress

Back in November, the Occupy Wall Street movement inspired “Bank Transfer Day,” a day for Americans fed up with the actions of the nation’s biggest banks to move their money to a different institution. Initial estimates of the impact of Bank Transfer Day placed the number of accounts moved at around 600,000, but later estimates revised that downward to around 200,000.

However, new estimates from Javelin Strategy and Research, a research and consulting firm, show that the original numbers were closer to the truth. Javelin found that 5.6 million people have moved their bank accounts in the last 90 days, with 610,000 citing Bank Transfer Day as their reason:

Bank Transfer Day and the Occupy Movement have received tremendous attention, and for the first time we have market research data to measure the impact on the financial services industry. Javelin’s research estimates that 5.6 million U.S. adults with a banking relationship changed providers in the past 90 days. Of those switchers, 610,000 US adults (or 11% of the 5.6 million) cited Bank Transfer Day as their reason and actually moved their accounts from a large to a small institution.

Javelin noted that this pace of account closing is three times the normal rate. While 11 percent of people moving their accounts cited Bank Transfer Day, one quarter said they moved their money because their old institution charged too many fees. Account closures at Bank of America, the nation’s second largest bank, actually jumped 20 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, potentially driven by the bank’s ill-fated decision to implement a $5 monthly fee for its debt cards.

According to the consulting firm cg42, the nation’s 10 biggest banks could lose as much as $185 billion in deposits this year due to customer defections. Of those banks, “Bank of America is the most vulnerable and could lose up to 10% of its customers and $42 billion in consumer deposits.”
~~

Saturday Song: Love and Happiness…

In Around the web on February 4, 2012 at 6:50 am

For J. Lovejoy’s contributions to our community…
~~

Rosalind Peterson: How to opt-out of PG&E SmartMeters…

In Around Mendo Island on February 3, 2012 at 5:41 am


From ROSALIND PETERSON
Re: PG&E SmartMeter Opt-Out

[The PG&E Opt-Out is based on a California Public Utilities Commission Decision on February 1, 2012. See my notes below... -RP]

What are the costs to opt-out of the SmartMeter™ Program?
There is an initial $75 setup charge and a $10 monthly meter-reading charge. For income-qualified customers (those enrolled in our CARE or FERA programs), the initial setup charge is $10, and the monthly meter-reading charge is $5.

Why do I have to pay a charge to opt-out of SmartMeter™?
Generally, the opt-out costs include an initial setup charge, which pays for the technology changes necessary to offer two meter-reading systems plus the initial visit, which is to install a new analog meter, or test the existing analog meter. The monthly service charge provides for a meter reader to read the meter on a monthly basis as well as other costs associated with the maintenance of separate meter programs.

Will PG&E refuse to provide me an analog meter if I don’t pay?
No. We will process your opt-out request and install your analog meter, but you still will be responsible for these charges.

Do I have to pay a setup charge and monthly charge for each of my meters?
No, the setup charge is per residence, not per meter. If you have both a gas meter and an electric meter at your property, only one setup charge and one monthly charge will be added to your energy statement. However, if you would like to opt-out for other residences on your account, there is a setup charge and a monthly charge for each additional household.

Once I opt-out, when can I expect to receive my analog meter?
We’re working as quickly as possible to assist all of our customers with their opt-out preferences. We do not have More…

Todd Walton: Practice(ing)

In Around the web on February 3, 2012 at 5:25 am

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Sylvia Plath

Marcia and I were walking on Big River Beach yesterday, the wet sand firm underfoot—Big River swollen and muddy from the recent deluge, a light rain falling.

As we reveled in the windy wet, free from our various indoor practices, our conversation ran from gossip to silence to politics to silence to memoir to silence to what we might have for supper. And at some point Marcia asked me about a speaking engagement I’ve accepted, a keynote address at a writers’ conference, the dreaded topic—The Creative Process—chosen for me by the conference planners. I say dreaded because I think most of what I’ve ever read about the so-called creative process is hogwash, and I fear that anything I might add to the dreaded subject would be hogwash, too.

Long ago I worked in a day care center overseeing a mob of little kids. The day care center was located ten minutes from Stanford University and we were forever being visited by earnest graduate students writing theses about educational techniques, educational philosophies, educational processes, and God knows what else pertaining to mobs of little kids. Having no degree of any kind, let alone a degree in Small Child Management, I found it highly amusing to be the frequent recipient of attention from these humorless academics, some of whom, I’ll wager, went on to author textbooks for aspiring nursery school teachers, kindergarten teachers, and other Small Child Management educators. Could it be that information gathered from interviews with me conducted by these earnest humorless people helped shape curricula for early childhood education in America? I hope so, but I doubt it. More…

Transition to Democracy: Facing the future with full employment and a renewed commitment to civil action…

In Around the web on February 3, 2012 at 5:09 am

From DAN KERVICK
New Economic Perspectives

There is a war going on everywhere between the corporate form of organization based on authoritarian control and elite hierarchy and the democratic form of organization based on shared power, empowered citizenship and the cooperation of equals.  Right now, the corporations and plutocrats are winning...

The failing neoliberal world system is beyond wrong: it is a stupid, backward and barbaric system, and the countries who continue to practice it inflict needless losses and suffering on their own citizens.

As you read this, millions of Americans who desperately want to work either cannot find employment at all, or cannot find the quantity and quality of work they need to meet their own needs and the needs of their families.  This is real suffering.  The unemployed are real flesh-and-blood people, not just fractions of percentage points on Labor Department spreadsheets.

At the same time, we have tremendous unmet social needs.  Any well-informed high school student can point to large, daunting national challenges that we sorely need to address, but that we are not addressing with anything approaching the urgency and commitment that the gravity of the challenges would seem to demand of us.

So the availability of unemployed human labor power is extremely high, while the need for applied, energetic human effort is extremely acute.

Mainstream textbook economics tells us that these kinds of problems More…

You can thank Reagan Republicans for Climate Change Hell…

In Around the web on February 2, 2012 at 5:56 am

From SAM PARRY
Consortium News

The documentary “A Road Not Taken” chronicles the story of the 32 solar panels that President Jimmy Carter installed on the roof of the White House in 1979, the same solar panels President Ronald Reagan unceremoniously removed.

After being taken down in 1986, the solar panels were stored away in a government warehouse, like that scene at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Arc.” They were mostly forgotten until 1991, when Unity College, a small private school in central Maine that promotes sustainability, acquired them and put them to use on the roof of the school’s cafeteria.

Later, one of the panels was donated to the American History Museum in Washington, DC, and another found its way back to Jimmy Carter, given to the Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta, Georgia, where it was made a permanent exhibit in 2007, recalling Carter’s early commitment to renewable energy.

Yet, besides following the fate of these particular solar panels, the 2010 documentary reflects on the lost opportunity for the United States and the world in the change of direction that the solar panels represented, the fateful turn on energy issues from Carter’s presidency to Reagan’s.

President Jimmy Carter’s solar panels being installed More…

The Decline and Fall of the Mall…

In Around the web on February 2, 2012 at 5:45 am

When was the last time you danced at Walmart or Costco?
Downtown Iowa City offers many things you can’t find at Big Box

From JAY WALLJASPER
Shareable

[See also Why We Need Resilient Communities below... DS]

In December while you were wrapping presents and sipping egg nog, a huge shift was occurring in the American economy—one that will have a major influence on our towns and cities.

What happened?  A lot of Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and Solstice shopping migrated to the Internet.

It’s been a steady trend for years, but finally hit home in 2012.  After enduring dampened sales over the past three holiday shopping seasons, America’s retailers were counting on a consumer comeback.  Big sales on Black Friday looked promising, but when all the receipts were counted, it was another year of yuletide restraint—at least in brick-and-mortar stores.  Meanwhile Internet sales continued to rise.

After New Years Sears, K-mart and even swank Bloomingdale’s announced nationwide store closings. It’s very likely holiday shoppers will discover even more empty storefronts next December

Similar to the housing bubble that burst in 2008, some places will be more devastated than others. Brooking Institute Real Estate expert Christopher Leinberger documents how many outlying suburban areas were swamped by massive devaluation of housing prices–more than established neighborhoods in cities and inner-ring suburbs.

I think the same will hold true for the coming retail crunch. Downtowns and neighborhood More…

Transition: New film being unveiled in England today…

In Mendo Island Transition on February 2, 2012 at 5:30 am

From TRANSITION NETWORK

[New film series from Transition Ukiah Valley to be announced soon... -DS]

‘In Transition 2.0′ is nearly ready to be unveiled to the world! We are very excited about this inspiring new telling of the Transition story, and want to tell you more about it here, and about how it will be rolled out over the coming months. To get us started, because we are so excited about sharing this with you, here is the film’s trailer, directed by Caspar Walsh.

Hopefully that has sufficiently whet your appetite for what is a remarkable film. We describe it thus:

“In Transition 2.0 is an inspirational immersion in the Transition movement, gathering stories from around the world of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. You’ll hear about communities printing their own money, growing food everywhere, localising their economies and setting up community power stations. It’s an idea that has gone viral, a social experiment that is about responding to uncertain times with solutions and optimism. In a world that is awash with gloom, here is a story of hope, ingenuity and the power of growing vegetables in unexpected places”.

It has been produced by Emma Goude, with animation by Emilio Mula, photography by Beccy Strong and with stunning original music by Rebecca Mayes. They have drawn together stories from around the world showing Transition initiatives at the various stages of transitioning their communities. In order to be able to feature some of the stories from overseas More…

What the Farm Bill could accomplish…

In Around the web on February 2, 2012 at 5:00 am

From SHARON ASTYK
casaubonsbook

Kari Hamerschlag has a post up about the upcoming Farm Bill and its potential to move money away from large scale industrial agriculture and towards smaller producers. For most small farmers producing for local markets, the idea is heady – after all, the economics agriculture are tenuous for many of us – we get all of the burdens of regulation without any of the economies of scale that accompany large scale agriculture. Most small producers are driven, then, to serve communities that can pay, rather than necessarily their poorer rural neighbors (although all of us do some of that too). We then get accused of being elitist (as I’ve written about before), usually with the word “arugula” mentioned somewhere (I’ve never fully grasped why a perfectly nice green, fast growing, easy to grow plant like arugula is actually a code word for “rich asshole” – why not “mustard greens” or “kale?”)

The accusation that local food is elitist is actually a product of the industrial food infrastructure – that is, the requirements of an industrial food system, the presumption that the basic structure of food production should be industrialized is what makes the price of good food higher. The accusation that local food isn’t “serious” because it costs more is an accusation in bad faith – the reason it costs more is because the same system makes it cost more.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing in favor of farmers’ not getting a fair price for their food, but consider the cost of a gallon of milk. I can produce a gallon of milk from my barn for about $2.40 in hay, grain, amortized goat costs, and a tiny chunk of my mortgage payment. More…

Jim Houle: Setting Aside Assad…

In James Houle on February 1, 2012 at 6:29 am

From JIM HOULE
Obama-Watch
Redwood Valley

The Propaganda Buildup to Regime Change in Syria has gone on since last spring but almost no one in the US pays much attention. Partly this is because the stories that are floated on the air waves sound so much like the usual buildup to war: whether it be the NATO intervention in Libya last year, the recent Somalia intervention, or the Iraqi invasion back in 2003. The Syrian dictator Bashar Assad has kept most foreign journalists out and we are left with precious little of that bloody street fighting video our bored TV watchers can sink their chops into. When we tried to enter southern Syria ourselves last May, the border was suddenly closed while the Army proceeded to shoot unarmed protesters in the southern town of Daraa.

Last November, our Arab League vassals got President Assad to invite 165 “observers”, wearing those orange vests that highway workers normally wear around here, to see what Assad was doing. Their mission expired recently and there was little enthusiasm to risk further stray bullets on the streets. They were unsuccessful in curbing the bloodshed and opposition groups within Syria felt they had merely whitewashed the Assad regime’s suppression. A spokesman for the Syrian National Council, Burban Ghalioun, complained that: “conditions did not allow observers to submit an objective report”. Nevertheless, the Qatar foreign minister bravely stated: “We are with the Syrian people and with their will and their aspirations” ( NYT -1/22) and wanted foreign troops to enter so long as they were not Qataris. More…

Occupy: Spiritual Insurrection…

In Around the web on February 1, 2012 at 6:00 am

From Culture Jammers HQ
AdBusters

We awoke one morning to the dark realization that humanity is being dragged into a black hole of ecological, financial and spiritual catastrophe … that our democracy has been seized by a corporatocracy … that every day two hundred species of plant, insect, bird and mammal become forever extinct … that a deluge of advertising is sleepwalking our civilization to the brink of insanity … and that unless we fight back in the most visceral and creative way possible all will be lost.

And yet, what sets our struggle apart in 2012 is that we are not fighting to save a distant future. We are not trying to prevent some terrible event that is still to come. This is not about our unborn grandchildren. Instead, many of us sense that the threshold has already been crossed; the tipping point has already happened and what we are fighting for is our present. We are living in that tragic moment of eerie stillness where the fatal damage has been done, widening cracks can be seen, yet the edifice still stands and business as usual continues … but for how much longer?

Our days may be shadowed by this dark realization, but there is reason to be deeply optimistic for “where danger is, grows the saving power also.” Never before has the tantalizing possibility of a Global Spring, a worldwide people’s insurgency for democracy, seemed as close. For perhaps the first time in human history, we just might be on the edge of an everywhere-at-once revolution against the financial fraudsters, corporate lackeys and the ideology of consumerism that has brought the Earth to the precipice of collapse.

In this, the era of the total and transcendent indignato swarm, we look to each other, not to the masters above, to find out what it will take to pull off the ultimate culture jam: spiritual insurrection.
~~

At Last, The Plowgirl Has Arrived…

In Gene Logsdon Blog - The Contrary Farmer on February 1, 2012 at 5:30 am


From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

The most obvious and promising sign of the new agriculture is the leadership that women are taking in the movement.  Women have always played the key role in farming but at least in the last two centuries in America, they have rarely gotten credit for it. Farming is a man’s world, American culture wants to believe, and, as is true of all culturally-treasured myths, no amount of plain everyday evidence to the contrary matters. Oh sure, women were the milkmaids of yesteryear but men pretended that milking cows wasn’t farming. Few males wanted to be tied down to what they considered boring barn jobs if they could escape it. Chickens too were “wimmenswork”. No real he-man farmer wanted to get off his tractor or step from behind his team of horses to do sissy work with a bunch of clucking hens.

Fieldwork was real he-man stuff, the men insisted, even though women ended up doing a lot of that too. Women rarely did the plowing however, and that seems to be the key difference. Lots of plowboys, nary a plowgirl.  In other field work, women did more than their share. (I have theories but will leave it to someone smarter to explain why women didn’t plow.)   The notion that males were the real farmers probably was rooted in the hunting and gathering stage of civilization where men brought home the game from afar (adventure time) and the women did the rest of the work at home (boring).

At any rate, after the plow became the symbol of agriculture in America, the role of women in farming did recede from the public eye. Women were supposed to stick to the kitchen and leave the real business of farming to their menfolks. This prejudice was astonishingly apparent even at farm magazines. More…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,525 other followers